A Focus on Mental Health During the Holidays of 2022

Every year, right about now, the phone starts to ring with a little more urgency than usual. Between the end of November and late February, we seem, as people, to get the most down, need the most help, and are more open to working on our mental health. And that is okay. We’re just calling attention to the fact that we understand, we get that way too. A lot of us do. You are not alone. We want you to know that.

At Kindbridge Behavioral Health, our counselors are here to help. Whether it is seasonal depression, trauma, grief, gambling and financial stress, family stress, or anxiety that just won’t ease up, we are always here to lend a hand. 

To help people relate to the trials and toils that the holidays can take on our mental health, this year we are going to be doing a series of roundtable conversations about how the holidays affect us and some of the people we work with. 

To start, our CEO and Founder, Daniel Umfleet is sitting down with Greg Kettner, and James Bush. Greg is the Founder and CEO of Work Happy based in Walla Walla, Washington and James is the host of the Mind of A Man podcast based in Franklin, Tennessee. Today the three of them sat down to talk about the holidays, the stresses that come along with them, and some coping mechanisms to get through them.

Roundtable Discussion About Mental Health Challenges Experienced by Many Amidst the Holiday Season of 2022, with Coping Mechanisms to Help

Christmas is a Fabulous Meal and Festive Postcard, But is it Actually Everything that it’s Made Out to be in the Movies?

Daniel: For me, it’s a stressful time of year. We are always making a mad dash into year end and the business always has plenty to work on and I find it hard to disconnect and enjoy the holiday right up until the meal is ready and Santa pops down the chimney. 

Greg:  Xmas for us has always been about family.   We’d open our presents on Xmas Eve, after singing carols to the neighbours and reading the Xmas story.  We’d open our stockings on Xmas morning, play with our toys, visit with family and then have a big Xmas breakfast.

Now that I’m grown up, we still do the same with our family, but there is the added pressure of closing deals, getting holiday cards out and filling up the Amazon cart with gifts that can be returned until Jan. 31.

I don’t think we connect one on one like we used to.  Now we think a text, or a card, or a call does the job, but it really doesn’t.  There’s nothing better for our souls than to visit face to face with family, friends and loved ones.

James: We live in a fast-paced evolving society. It places heavy demands upon each of us. To be honest, I believe many of us are burnt out when it gets to that time of the year. All of the projects, meetings, emails, conversations, conferences, deadlines, etc. It’s a lot. Do we truly feel that we are in the Christmas spirit with all those things taking place at that time? I will be honest and say that it doesn’t occur that way easily for me. Not to say that it can’t happen, but for many of us busy professionals, it presents challenges.

In addition, I find that many of us adhere to astronomical expectations during the holidays that intrudes on our personal space. We lack boundaries in those moments. Thus, stress enters our life. 

Daniel: Christmas is different for me than for most. It’s a stark reminder that I live in England. I’m an American abroad this time of year, usually. And it’s a different experience.

My parents and siblings are pretty spread out. It’s hard for everyone to get together often. And I think that that adds to the stress of all of us. We all miss one another. We all have our little quirks and disagreements but when it comes right down to it, I know we would all prefer to be together.

James: That’s a great point. As I am sitting here, thinking about it, I can’t remember the last time that me, and all my siblings were all together on Christmas. Like you Daniel, my family are all spread throughout the United States. Yes, we will make the customary Christmas day phone call but it is not the same as actually being near a loved one. 

All of You Have Experience Working with People Who Are in Distress. What are Some of the Common Things that You See During this time of Year Amongst those Reaching Out?

Greg: Reaching out in November and December is even more important.  Rates of visits to ER for mental health issues increases along with the number of suicides.

People are feeling loneliness because we are so spread out, and don’t have human connection and touch. Electronics has helped bridge the gap, like when I call my 102 year old grandma every other week.  I never am sure if she remembers the calls, but seeing her smile and thanking me for remembering her, does a lot of her mental wellness.

Take time to reach out to family and friends.  If they live close, go visit them or take them for coffee.  If they are long distance, get on a Zoom or phone call.  Don’t text them.  For me, I put their names in my calendar, so I don’t forget them.   Let them know that you appreciate and love them.  Or, if you don’t have a great relationship with them, be the first to reach out, offer an olive branch, and rebuild the relationship, if you choose to.

Daniel: This is usually the time of year where loneliness kicks in the most for people because the marketing gods are selling the dream through the airwaves hard. When people have experienced significant loss and are grieving, this time of year can really sink your spirit and get you down to the point where you just don’t want to get up. Which can lead to all types of destructive behaviors and negative outcomes.

It’s common that other family members don’t understand the pain and grief that a loved one may be going through and whether they mean to be insensitive or not, it often ends up happening, which creates a reaction, and someone’s feelings get hurt. A lot of families really start to show their cracks this time of year. Someone may be wanting to move on faster than the other and it causes friction. 

This is also the time of year that I’ve seen men start to drive themselves into debt to pull off an epic Christmas, and secretly, under the surface, they’re boiling over with worry. Which can also permeate in some seriously destructive behaviors. Recklessness is rampant when the bills are stacking up, your gambles aren’t paying off, and your kids want everything they see on the television. Bad things happen in these situations more than people realize.

James: Yes, I believe it is somewhat attached to the nature of men. As men, many would argue we would like to be providers, and protectors. Most would argue we would like to give our families everything they desire and more. However, it is at the detriment of our own financial standing and personal peace. Sometimes, we are looking for value in monetary valued items but ultimately devaluing ourselves by the unnecessary choices that we are making. We have become the people pleaser, who will please no one, including themselves. which potentially could lead to post-holiday despair.

For You Personally, What Are Some of Your Biggest Struggles This Time of Year?

Daniel: Distance from my siblings and parents is a big one. It’s a more complicated fix than it sounds when all parties must make sacrifices one way or the other to get on the same continent, in the same state, to the same town, and into the same house. It takes a lot of organizing and planning to successfully pull it off.

This is also the time of year that everyone in my extended family on my wife’s side begins to feel the pain of the loved one’s lost during this time. My brother-in-law has a birthday right around Christmas that we acknowledge and hold a mini celebration for without him. We lost him in a terrorist attack nearly 9 years ago now and the wounds from that will never quite heal really. It’s a stark reminder to us all that time in this skin is not guaranteed.

James: During this time of year, some of my biggest challenges deal with time. Time is something many of us don’t have enough of. My schedule is packed nearly 7 days a week to try to get things accomplished. That makes it difficult to go see loved ones. Also because the calendar year is coming to an end there are other occupational responsibilities that exist. Which sometimes can’t be ignored. Lastly, fatigue sometimes sets in. I’m running on fumes and I need a break. So there are definitely many challenges. 

Greg:  My biggest struggle is finding the right gift for my wife and daughter.  Usually there are enough hints, to where they know what they are getting, but that helps me have less stress.

Also, it’s a busy time of the year, as I’m trying to make sure I’ve reached out to all my clients and prospects about next year.  There is always paperwork, following up on taxes and planning for next year.

I have to remind myself to enjoy what I have, know that there is going to be extra stress and lonely people and do better to reach out to as many as I can.

What Do You Want People Who Are Out There Struggling To Know As We Head Towards The Christmas Holiday Season?

James: Use boundaries. Use boundaries. Use boundaries. Don’t allow people to intrude upon your personal space. Teach people how to treat you. Sometimes it is OK to say no. Communicate your needs more effectively. Ask for help. Rest when necessary and don’t let the expectations of others push you into something that you do not want to do.  We’ve got to practice better self care. In fact, we have to learn how to properly care for ourselves more effectively. This involves you becoming a student of you. 

There’s a statement in the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book I enjoy. It states “unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and my attitudes.” It also states, “And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.” We struggle so many times with different challenges of life because we have not accepted them for what they are. This leaves us empty, bothered, overworked, and definitely stressed. Let’s learn how to better accept life for what it is and what it unfolds. 

Daniel: A very important message to get out to everyone, is that if you can feel the pressure compounding, if it’s making you sick, if you can’t operate normally, if you’re wound so tight that the ant hills look like mountains, it’s time you look in the mirror long and hard and get over any stigma that you have about working on your mental health. 

Too many people still think mental health and wellness are cover up terms for ‘crazy’ or ‘voodoo doctor’ and they run away from embracing it at the expense of their physical self and the stress levels and patience of everyone around them. We hear far too many stories of people having 8, 9, 10 physical episodes before they finally reach out and accept that they can’t find a solution on their own. 

The hardest thing to wrap your head around is thinking about managing mental health with the same strategies you would nursing a torn ACL back to health, or the same way you try to maintain good cardio function through exercise. When the physical systems start to fail, we work on them to feel better. When the cognitive systems start to fail, we worry what others are going to say when they find out that you need to take a beat and work on yourself.

Keep in mind, there are millions of instances across the globe where people don’t make it into recovery at all. They buy into the stigma side of all of this, they never reach out, then they end their lives. And that is real. So, my biggest message to people out there right now is to think about therapy, think about mindfulness, thing about self-love, all in the same way you would think about getting your physical self back to health after an injury. 

If you are surrounded by people that will judge you, you’re in the wrong crowd. There is no room for that negativity in your life. Take care of you. Remember, you can’t change the people around you, but you CAN change the people you are around. 

There are people that will help, as soon as you are ready to do the work, and even if you’re not, there are people around you that are ready to listen. Tiny wins add up to big victories.

Greg: If people are struggling, I want them to remember that they matter and people are out there who want the best for you and are willing to listen and or help.  You’re not alone.

We all suffer from loneliness from time to time.   When you are struggling, reach out to someone you trust and love.  Perhaps a parent, friend, child, or a professional.  There is no shame or guilt asking for help.  You can always reach someone by dialing ‘988’ or texting ‘HELP’ to 741741.

We are all in this together.  Take time for you, reach out, and let someone know you’d like to talk.

Daniel: On a slightly softer note, here, personally, I have found a lot of comfort in mindfulness meditation and breathing exercises. I’ve developed a habit of doing some deep breathing exercises at least 3 days a week and meditating at least twice in a week. For me, it helps keep me level-headed. I know if I can feel the stressors adding up now and I’m about to boil over, that I need to take a minute and do these things. And stretch. Stretch and mobility at the gym, yea, that’s my jam when I am clogged with noise mentally and can’t think. I wasn’t a believer for a long time. I am now. 

Greg:  Same here Daniel.   Breathing, mediating and having friends that you can call, like we do every couple of weeks, to keep in touch, share our wins and our challenges.

When it comes to mental health, we need to be more selfish and take care of ourselves first.  If we don’t, how are we to help others, when are emotional batteries are low.

Surround yourself with friends who you can reach out to.  Take care of your body and mind through diet, exercise, breathing and meditation.

James: I agree with both of you. The strategic concepts you’re mentioning are self-care and self-work. I believe, placing yourself away from distractions and allowing yourself to sit with you and your thoughts can be beneficial. It is an honest time. It will not be judged or criticized by social standards. It is truly how you feel in those moments. As Daniel mentioned, try mindfulness meditation. If that is not your deal, try sitting alone in silence with your thoughts and write them down on a sheet of paper or in the voice notes section of your phone. Regardless of the method, you must take time to decompress from the various societal stressors of life.  I’ve learned over the last year the most important relationship you have on this earth is the one with yourself. Therefore, we need to do a better job of taking care of ourselves, and not ignoring the glaring challenges in our lives. 

THANK YOU to Daniel, Greg, and James for participating in today’s roundtable conversation. We will be hosting a handful of these talks throughout the holidays so stay tuned. 

For anyone out there that needs a helping hand this year, feel free to reach out to Kindbridge, with over 40 therapists and coaches in 25 states, there’s a good chance that we can help. And if we can’t, we’ll help you find someone who can. Reach us by calling +1 (877) 426-4258 or email us at [email protected].

Also, for more information on the Work Happy program with Greg, you can get in touch with him here at [email protected].

And finally, everyone please go to your Apple or Android store, or wherever you get your favorite podcasts and follow the Mind of a Man podcast, hosted by James. 

It’s a tough time of year out there for lots of people. Remember, you are not alone. 

You’re Not Alone this Holiday Season

Email: [email protected]

Call +1 (877) 426-4258

Mental Health During the Holidays 2022